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Eight great reasons to head to Wagga Wagga this summer

Amanda Whitley

I grew up in the small village of Tarcutta, about 30-minutes drive from Wagga Wagga.

As you can imagine, it was a pretty sleepy little town, so we headed to the ‘big smoke’ of Wagga Wagga whenever we could. I remember summer days spent lounging on a picnic rug and feeding the ducks on the banks of Wollundry Lagoon, and nights at the local Chinese restaurant.

These days, however, there’s a whole lot more to get excited about — a fantastic food and wine culture, oodles of cultural experiences to explore and loads of family fun.

We’ve put together eight reasons why Wagga Wagga should be on your road trip lust list this summer.

For the fun-seeker

South Wagga Apex Gumi Race

The Wagga Wagga Gumi Race. Image: Facebook.

The South Wagga Apex Gumi Race. Image: Facebook.

The Gumi Race is the stuff of legends – I remember watching the race as a kid (we’re talking more than 30 years ago) and it’s bigger and better than ever in 2016.

To enter this race you need a team to build a “Gumi”  – basically a raft using only rubber tubes for flotation – and paddle power to get yourself the seven kilometres downstream to the Wagga Beach (yes, it’s an inland river beach and it’s awesome). The first wave of Gumis will set sail from Eunony Reserve and arrive at Wagga Beach around 11:30am.

A festival awaits entrants and spectators alike with food and drinks, live music and kids entertainment.

South Wagga Apex Gumi Race. Sunday 19 February 2017. Wagga Beach, Johnston Street, Wagga Wagga. waggagumi.org.au

For the foodie

Cork & Fork Fest

Cork and Fork Fest. Image: Facebook.

Cork and Fork Fest. Image: Facebook @corkandforkfest

Cork & Fork Fest hosted by Borambola Wines is a community event held outdoors at Wagga Beach and it’s all about food, wine and good times with friends and family.

Take along a picnic blanket or chair and enjoy a variety of delicious food options while being entertained by musicians and enjoying a glass of Borambola Wine, Tuckerbox hoppy lager beer or apple cider.

Cork & Fork Fest. Wagga Beach, Johnston Street, Wagga Wagga.5.30pm – 9.30pm, Friday 24 February 2017. Facebook @corkandforkfest

Food I Am

Image via facebook.com/Foodiam

Image via facebook.com/Foodiam

The panoramic hilltop view from cooking school Food I Am is just the beginning. Founded in 2014 by Tanya Sibrey, FoodiAm hosts cooking classes that teach students everything from the secrets of great Italian pasta to Asian BBQ and has hosted guest chefs and cooks such as Giovanni Pilu, Christine Manfield, Annette Fear and Frank Camorra.

Classes usually run for two or more hours and include matched local wines when you sit down to enjoy the fruits of your labour with other classmates. Check out their schedule here.

Food I Am. 29 Kunzea Place, Springvale. foodiam.com.au

Thirsty Crow Brewing Co.

Thirsty Crow Brewery. Facebook @thirstycrowbrewery

Thirsty Crow Brewery. Facebook @thirstycrowbrewery

The craft beer craze has spread to the Riverina. Thirsty Crow Brewing Co. is Wagga’s first microbrewery, producing nine year-round beers and more than 30 seasonal brews. The kitchen specializes in craft pizza, which pairs up well with their craft beer range, and also serves up artisanal wines, craft spirits, amazing coffee from independent roasters, Australian owned soft drinks and regional juices.

But it’s not just for beer lovers – there’s something for everyone, including a kid’s corner and a dog-friendly beer garden (including water bowls and a dog bed!).

 Thirsty Crow Brewing Co. 153 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga. thirstycrow.com.au

For the music lover

Surf & Soul Tour – The Beach Boys and The Temptations

The Beach Boys. Image: Facebook @surfandsoultour

The Beach Boys. Image: Facebook @surfandsoultour

There’s no better way to celebrate the summer than experiencing the band that literally created the beach rock sound live. Wagga Wagga’s McDonald’s Park will be transformed on 11 February for the Surf & Soul concert with legendary Californian band The Beach Boys and The Temptations to entertain what will no doubt be a huge crowd.

It’s the soundtrack of summers past, so get ready for a night of “Fun, Fun, Fun” (sorry). Just maybe leave the surfboard at home…

Take along a picnic and non-alcoholic drinks or taste a variety of local food from onsite vendors. A wide selection of Wines will be sold at the venue along with beer and non-alcoholic beverages.

Surf & Soul Tour. 4pm until late – Saturday 11 February 2017. McDonald’s Park, Copland Street, Wagga Wagga. Tickets from ticketek.com.au.

For culture vultures

The Archibald Prize

Louise Hearman Barry oil on masonite 69.5 x 100 cm © the artist

Louise Hearman. Barry. oil on masonite. 69.5 x 100 cm. © the artist.

The Archibald Prize, first awarded in 1921, is Australia’s favourite art award. Awarded to the best portrait painting of the year, it’s a ‘Who’s Who’ of Australian contemporary culture – from politicians to fashion designers, sporting heroes to artists.

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery is hosting the works until Sunday 15 January, offering a unique chance to get up close and personal with works that challenge the way we see ourselves and our society. The Art Gallery of NSW exhibition will be on display for free at the gallery, which is open every day over summer except Christmas Day and Mondays.

There’s plenty more to see once you’ve had your fill of the Archibald, including the Margaret Carnegie Print Collection, National Art Glass Collection, and a range of touring shows and locally developed exhibitions from the Gallery’s extensive collections, as well as the work of Riverina based artists.

Wagga Wagga Art Gallery, Baylis St & Morrow Street, Wagga Wagga.  Open 10am – 4pm Tuesday to Saturday; 10am to 2pm, Sunday. Closed Mondays. wagga.nsw.gov.au.

The Museum of the Riverina

Museum of the Riverina in the historic 1881 Council Chambers.

Museum of the Riverina in the historic 1881 Council Chambers.

The Museum of the Riverina tells stories about the people and events which have helped shape the City of Wagga Wagga and the Riverina Region. It is also responsible for collecting and caring for more that 10,000 objects, photographs, textiles and paper-based materials which help to tell those stories.

The Botanic Gardens site highlights the people, places and events that give Wagga Wagga its unique character and is home to changing exhibitions, the museum’s permanent collection Kidzone, Kidztrack and the Wagga Wagga Sporting Hall of Fame.

Two sites: Historic Council Chambers Site, Cnr Baylis and Morrow Sts, Wagga Wagga; Botanic Gardens Site, Lord Baden Powell Drive, Willans Hill, Wagga Wagga. Both open 10am – 4pm Tuesday to Saturday, 10am – 2pm Sunday, closed Monday. museumriverina.com.au.

For the bliss-seeker

Circa 1929

Circa 1929. Image: Facebook @circa1929.

Circa 1929. Image: Facebook @circa1929.

Forget having to travel to Sydney or Melbourne for a luxe boutique experience. Circa 1929 is part-lounge, part-day spa and it’s so cool it hurts.

The heritage-listed CBA building in Fitzmaurice Street has been transformed into a haven for body and soul, with pressed metal, black subway tiles and petrified wood tables combining effortlessly with the building’s history to make something truly special. The pièce de résistance is the day spa’s massive copper bath where you can soak your cares away.

Once you’re ready to step outside, you’ll find a buzzy strip filled with restaurants, cafés and boutiques where you can continue to find your bliss.

Circa 1929. 109 Fitzmaurice Street, Wagga Wagga. circa1929.com.au

Want more reasons to make the trip? Check our visitwagga.com

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Amanda Whitley

Amanda Whitley is the founder and director of HerCanberra. In her ‘spare time’, she instructs zumba, loves to cook (and eat), and wrangles two gorgeous little girls. She’s done everything from present the tv news to operate a stop and go sign and is passionate about connecting Canberra women.

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